The Gift

Some gifts just can't be wrapped.

Originally posted 2009-12-21
The Gift

by Melanie Brown

Copyright © 2005 Melanie Brown


For Laura, who has taken her first steps on a great journey…

I turned the gun over in my hands several times, feeling the sleek smoothness of the black metal of the CZ 75. I pulled the slide back slightly to ensure there was a round chambered. I didn’t check the magazine. I’d only need one bullet.

I just sat there a few minutes, staring intently at the gun in my hands, but not really seeing it. Tears welled up in my eyes until the image of the gun blurred. I wiped my eyes, got up, walked over to my dresser and dropped the weapon into the opened drawer and covered it with a few pairs of panties.

I decided I could go at least one more day. Somehow I could always summon up enough hope to go one more day. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve, and it will be really hard to find enough hope. But, that’s tomorrow.

I pulled a warm nightgown from the dresser, stripped down to my panties and slipped the nightgown over my head. Running on autopilot, I made my way to the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face. I looked at myself in the mirror and felt a wave of depression wash over me.

What I saw staring back at me was a ridiculous sight. A thinning twenty-nine year old obvious male wearing a little make-up and longish hair that has been mashed down by a wig for several hours. I hated what I saw and I hated who I was.

Six months ago, I was living in a nice apartment, married to an attractive woman for almost three years. I thought that by marrying Cindy, I’d finally exorcised the demons that had so tortured my childhood and teenage years. It was during my senior year in college that we met. She was still a junior, so we decided to wait until she finished school before getting married.

It was great, or at least I thought so. I felt that I was finally becoming the man I knew Dad wanted. I landed a good job, married a great girl and my life seemed to be turning around. I could shut down those destructive urges that left me wondering who or what I was. I could forget the doubts, the confusion of not knowing if I was a boy or a girl. How many times as a child had I fallen asleep praying as hard as I could that I when I woke up in the morning I’d be a girl?

But a year ago, the demons started to return. The doubts returned. The urges could no longer be restrained. I started wearing Cindy’s panties under my clothes when I went to work. More than once I called in sick just so I could be home alone for a few hours so I could try on some of her dresses and indulge in wearing make-up.

Several months went by as the mental struggle continued to grow. I decided this was bigger than me and without telling my wife, I sought professional help. After months of therapy, soul searching and careful evaluations, I finally had to admit that I was transsexual and I could no longer live this lie. The lie had to end, one way or another.

I confessed to Cindy, a woman I deeply loved, about who I really was. It went really badly. She called me every name she could think of. She threw things at me. She cried and screamed and demanded to know how I could do this to her.

Needless to say, she wanted a divorce. Instead of being quiet about it though, she made spectacle of it, telling all her and our friends, some of them co-workers. My parents decided I wasn’t their son any more and haven’t talked to me since. Even Nathan, a co-worker who had been my best friend since college avoided me.

The atmosphere at work was barely tolerable. I decided that since every one knew about me, if not dressing as a woman outright, I’d at least dress femininely. I could only do so much because of the company’s dress code, but I got away with starting to grow my hair out, wearing blouses, earrings and shaping my eyebrows. Sometimes I even tried a hint of make-up.

I got passed over on a couple of possible promotions though and the women made a lot of noise about how they’d better not catch me in the women’s restroom. Of course, I had no intention of using the women’s restroom. At least not until I started my real life test. I was surprised by the reaction of the women more so than the men. I somehow expected women to welcome me to the fold. Instead, they thought I was nuts or a pervert or both.

So now I’m trying to save up the money to make the trip to Thailand to have my surgery. So far I have almost half of what I need saved up. It will take awhile to save that much money up and I’m trying to get mentally braced to start my real life test soon. I just started hormone therapy. I can’t wait to have breasts. I’m also in the middle of having electrolysis done on my face. I’ll be able to save even more once that’s completed.

I suddenly realized that instead of brushing my teeth, I’d been standing in the bathroom, crying. I brushed my teeth and then returned to the bedroom and sat on the bed, trying to dispel the fog of despair that’s enveloped me.

I looked out the window and watched the snow starting to fall. It looked really cold outside and I guessed I should be thankful for a nice warm bed to sleep in. I turned out the light and pulled the covers up high.

I glanced through the darkness at the empty side of the bed. I closed my eyes and allowed myself a smile at the thought of me finally being a woman and lying next to Nathan. I discovered I had a crush on him a couple of years ago. I never told him that of course. While fantasizing about being someone’s girlfriend, I drifted off to sleep.

*          *          *

It was cold and the snow was still falling the next morning. That mainly meant I’d have to leave early to even come close to getting to work on time. I ate a quick but unsatisfying breakfast and dressed quickly, opting for a black leotard instead of socks in the hopes that it would be warmer.

The roads were more slushy than icy and I guess since it was Christmas Eve, a lot of people took advantage of the weather to get an early start to their holiday as the traffic was a lot lighter than I was expecting.

As I was stopped at a traffic light, I looked over at the small city park adjacent to the street I take to work every day. It looked beautiful with all the trees and small structures covered in white. Just as the traffic light started to change, I noticed her.

It was a little old lady, all bundled up in a thick coat and a fur hat that really didn’t fit her head. She had been sitting in that same spot the night before as I drove home. Surely she hadn’t been sitting there in the snow storm all night! My God! What if she had died there, alone on a park bench during the night! That would be awful, I thought to myself.

I had no idea who she was, but I was suddenly obsessed with finding if she was okay or not. I made a sudden move to change lanes, and my car slid sideways. I over-corrected and found myself sliding the other way. I brought the car under control just in time to avoid colliding with the car in front of me. I then quickly pulled over to the curb near the sidewalk that cut across the park where the old lady was sitting.

The cold wind was terrible as it cut like a knife through my jacket when I got out of the car. The old lady hadn’t moved a muscle this whole time. I was afraid she had to be dead.

I walked up to her and said, “Ma’am? Ma’am? Are you okay, ma’am?” She didn’t respond and I touched her shoulder.

One of her blue eyes opened at my touch and she looked slowly around, like she had trouble focusing. Her other eye opened and she slowly looked over at me. “What did you say, dear?”

Thank God she was alive! I was very relieved. I said, “I was asking if you’re okay?”

Though her face was almost obscured by her coat collar, she smiled slightly and quietly said, “It’s a little on the cool side, but I’m okay.”

I sat down next to her and asked, “I know it’s not my any of my business, but why are you sitting out here? You must have been here all night. Do you have a home? Are you lost?”

She shook her head and looked a little sad as she said, “No, I’m not lost. I don’t have a home.” There were a couple of shelters in town. There was no reason for her to out here in the elements.

“Ma’am, when was the last time you had something to eat?” I asked.

A sudden little fire lit her eyes ever so briefly as she said, “Stop calling me ‘ma’am’. My name is Betty.” She paused a moment and her eyes dimmed somewhat. She continued, “Three days ago. I had something three days ago. I think. It might have been Tuesday. No. It was three days ago.”

“Would you like some breakfast, Betty?”

“Is the Pope a Catholic?” she chucked, revealing several missing teeth.

I stood up and said, “Look, it’s Christmas Eve. Let’s have breakfast. My treat. Okay?”

She shook her head and said, “Oh, I couldn’t impose on you. I appreciate the offer though.”

I was determined to get her out of that park bench. “Please?” I pleaded. “I have no one else to give a Christmas present to. Let me get you something to eat?”

She looked thoughtful for a moment. She looked up at me and asked, “You’re alone too, eh?” I nodded. She said, “I have a feeling that you’re just going to stand there and nag me all day until I go with you. Help me up.”

I held out my hand for her to take and helped pull her up to her feet. A pile of snow slid off her lap and onto the sidewalk. There was a little café across the intersection and that’s where we headed. It took us several minutes as she was a very slow walker.

Color began to return to Betty’s cheeks as we sat there in the warm air inside the café as we waited for our orders to arrive. She held her coffee mug like it was a precious jewel. She brought the mug up under her nose and took a big sniff. “Land sakes alive! It’s been ages since I’ve had a cup of coffee!” She took a sip and savored it in her mouth before swallowing.

We sat in silence a couple of minutes while we sipped our coffee. I was going to be late for work, but I didn’t care. I studied Betty’s face and watched as the gray faded. Her eyes were brighter and she seemed more animated.

“Betty,” I finally said. “Do you have any place to stay?”

“Why?” Betty asked, looking at me with one eye. “You going to ask me to stay with you?”

“Actually, no. I…”

“Good! I wouldn’t stay with you even if you’d asked,” she said matter-of-factly.

I was about to say something when the waitress brought our food out. I was silent for a few minutes while Betty dug into her scrambled eggs and sausage.

“I was going to say, I know of a shelter nearby,” I said. “They have a good reputation and it’s got to be better than a snow covered park bench!”

Betty continued to eat for a moment. She then looked at me sideways and asked, “Just what are you, anyway?”

Taken aback, I said, “I’m not exactly sure what you mean?”

Betty picked up a napkin and patted her lips. She then said, “You sound like a man, but you look kinda like a woman. Are you one of those…you know…” She then lifted her arm up with a limp wrist hand and wiggled the hand back and forth.

I suddenly got uncomfortable. It wasn’t exactly crowded in the café, but I really didn’t want to discuss my private life with a stranger. I hesitated, then said in a low voice, “If you must know, I’m…well…transsexual. I’m just starting to transition.”

Betty gave me a funny look and asked, “Transition?”

I smiled weakly and said, “Transition…from male to female.”

Betty frowned and shook her head as she said, “To each his own, I guess. But land sakes, I can’t imagine why any man would want to throw everything he has away to become a woman. It’s still a man’s world, you know.”

“It has nothing to do with that,” I said. “It’s how I feel inside. My inside doesn’t match my outside.”

She pointed at her head and said, “I don’t think you’re firing on all cylinders, but like I said, to each his own. It’s your life.”

“That’s right. It’s my life. You’re only here once and it’s miserable when you’re uncomfortable in your own skin.” I said.

Betty looked at me a for a moment, smiled and said, “You seem like a good person. I hope this…transition? … brings you happiness.”

I smiled back at her and said, “Thanks. Me too.”

I looked at my watch and jumped in my seat. My boss was going to kill me. I said, “I need to get to work, so, let me drop you off at that shelter. You’ll be out of the snow and they’ll have something to eat, I’m sure.”

She thought a moment, and then said, “I think you’re right. I don’t know how much more cold I can take!”

“Great!” I said. Then I had a sudden thought. I know I’m trying to save money, but I felt I could part with some of it. There was an ATM around the corner. “Wait right here a second. I’ll be right back.” I got up and paid for our meal. I then ran out of the café and around the corner.

I had to hurry because I was afraid she wouldn’t be there when I got back. But when I walked back into the café, Betty was still sitting at our table, sipping her coffee.

I sat down and asked, “Do you have a purse, or a pocket?”

Betty felt her coat and said, “I have lots of pockets. Why?”

I pushed a wad of twenty dollar bills in her hand. “Here’s two hundred dollars. I know it’s not much, but it’s all the ATM will let me take out at one time.”

Betty frowned and pushed the bills back at me. “I don’t want your money. I don’t want your charity.”

“It’s not charity. It’s a gift. Go buy some new warm clothes, or get something you want or need. I want you to have it. Take it. Please.”

Betty frowned again and asked, “So you can feel good, right?”

I shook my head and said, “No, so you can feel good.”

She looked at me for a moment, then down at the money. She slowly took the money and pushed it into a coat pocket. “Can we go now?”

*          *          *

“You’re lucky the boss got snowed in and will be late himself!” laughed Nathan as I hung my jacket on the hook on my cubicle wall. “So far I think we’re the only ones here in Engineering.”

Nathan’s in a good mood today. He’s actually talking to me. Maybe he’s in a holiday mood. I said, “And I even left early this morning so I wouldn’t be late.”

Nathan sat down in one of my ‘guest’ chairs in my cubicle. “So, why were you late, then?”

“I saw this old lady sitting alone in the park, getting covered in snow.” I told Nathan about taking Betty to get some breakfast and then dropping her off at the shelter downtown.

Nathan shook his head and said, “That was very noble, Andrew. Very noble. But you know what happens when you feed a stray cat; you can’t get rid of it.”

I studied my fingers a moment. I said, “I know. I hope I didn’t make a mistake. Not only did I feed her, but I left her my name and phone number in case she needs something.”

Throwing his arms into the air, Nathan said, “Andy! I thought we raised you better than that! What were you thinking, man…uh, girl…whatever.”

I frowned and said, “Nate, don’t start with that again. You’re about the only friend I have any more. I prefer you use female pronouns for me, but I’m not going to be upset if you don’t. Just don’t call me an ‘it’ or a ‘whatever’, okay?”

“Sorry, sorry. I keep forgetting how sensitive you are. It must be the hormones or something.” Nathan grinned.

“Nate!” I scolded.

“Okay, I’ll stop.”

I tried to change the subject. “Doing anything special for Christmas? Three day holiday this year.”

“No, not really. Might play some computer games. You?” Nathan put his feet up on my desk.

I gave Nathan a smirk as I said, “Not much either. I did buy a small turkey breast to heat up to make it at least have an illusion of a traditional Christmas dinner. I’ll be having turkey sandwiches for a month. You’re more than welcome to come over, if you want.”

Nathan didn’t even look over at me as he said, “Naw, guess not. But thanks for asking.”

*          *          *

On the way home, even though I had to pick up a few things from the grocery store, I drove past the park just to make sure Betty hadn’t returned. Thankfully, as far as I could tell, the park was empty.

As soon as I hit my apartment, I rushed to my bedroom and stripped down to my panties. I felt around my breasts, but still not much there. The doc told me that even after they’re through growing, I’d probably need some breast enhancement surgery if I wanted a nice bust line.

As I pulled out a bra from the drawer, it exposed my gun lying there inside. Not today, I thought. I wasn’t even depressed enough to take it out of the drawer. I quickly closed the drawer.

This was a three day weekend and I wasn’t planning on going anywhere, so I did my nails after I did my make-up. I selected a brown sweater dress, matching pantyhose and boots. I adjusted my wig and decided that maybe I would go out after I fix dinner. Maybe just down to the mall to see a movie or something.

I studied myself in the mirror. I wasn’t as passable as I’d like, especially since this would soon be my life. I was going to need a nose job and I wanted my Adam’s apple shaved. I just wasn’t going to be able to do all this at once.

I had just finished eating and was in the bathroom repairing my lipstick when the phone rang. That’s weird, I thought. Who’d be calling me on Christmas Eve? Certainly not Cindy. Probably not my parents. Maybe it was Nathan? No, probably not.

I answered the phone and the voice on the other end of the line said, “Is this Andrew McCloskey?”

Worried about what I might hear next, I said, “Yes, it is.”

“This is Sgt Williams with the police department. We’re hoping you can I.D. someone for us. She has no identification, but she had your name and phone number.”

“Oh my God! That has to be Betty!” I almost screamed into the phone. “Where is she? Is she all right?”

Sgt. Williams said, “She’s in the emergency room at Bailey Memorial. She appears to be a robbery victim. Is she a relative of yours, sir?”

“No, I only met her this morning. I took her to a shelter.”

“I think they’re going to transfer her to the county hospital. This is a private hospital. They don’t take people who can’t pay.” Sgt Williams said that last part a little too loud and in the background on the phone I could hear someone say, “Hey man, rules are rules.”

I said, “Officer, I know where that hospital is. I can be there in about ten or fifteen minutes.”

I didn’t have time to change my clothes or wash my face. I transferred my wallet and keys and other items over to my purse, grabbed my coat and hurried out the door.

Why didn’t she stay in the shelter? I felt guilty for giving her any money now. She might not have been robbed otherwise. But how would anyone know unless she showed it to someone? The police wouldn’t give me any other information about her condition, citing patient confidentiality. He could just tell me she was there.

Minutes later I arrived at the emergency room entrance of the hospital. There were two police officers just inside the entrance. The chevrons on his sleeve the name tag with “Williams” written on it indicated I had the right man.

“Sgt. Williams? I’m…I’m…” Dammit! “I’m Andrew McCloskey. You called me a few minutes ago.”

“Mister McCloskey?” He looked down his nose at me, not bothering to hide his surprise and distaste.

“You caught me at a bad time,” I said.

Sgt. Williams smiled slyly and said, “Obviously.”

“Can I see Betty?” I asked. “Can I talk to someone about her condition?”

Sgt. Williams became more business like as he pointed through the second glass door and said, “Just ask the guy at the triage desk. I have to say she looked like she was hurt pretty bad and who knows how long she’d been out in the snow.”

I smiled weakly and said, “Thank you, officer.” I started walking to the second glass door.

“No problem…uh, ma’am,” said Sgt. Williams. The second officer tried to stifle a laugh.

I walked up to the triage desk. The man behind the desk asked, “Can I help you, ma’am…uh…” He looked confused when he looked up at me. His name tag said “Bob H. / E.D.”

“’Ma’am’ is just fine. Yes, you have an elderly woman here. She was a victim of a robbery. I believe her name is Betty?”

“Are you a family member, ma’am?” the disinterested Bob asked.

“No, I’m a friend. I have to see her.” I pleaded.

“I don’t know if we can do that, since you’re not family.”

Frowning, I said, “I don’t think she has any family left. She’s been living in the park. I took her to a shelter today. I was hoping she’d stay there, at least through the night.”

The nurse or whatever he was glanced at a computer screen and said, “Well, it’s all a moot point anyway. They’re about to take her to the county hospital since she has no way of paying.”

“That’s ridiculous! She needs medical attention now! She might not make it to the other hospital. It’s all the way across town!”

The guy just shrugged.

“Can you put her on my insurance?” I asked.

“Is she on your plan?” Bob didn’t even look at me.

“Can I be the guarantor? What is it called? Self Pay? Just bill me and I’ll pay it myself.” I had almost ten grand in the bank. Money that I was saving in order to change my life.

“You sure you want to? You said she’s not family. I don’t think you two are close. It could get expensive,” said Bob

“Yes I’m sure!” I almost screamed.

Bob said, “Okay, then. He pointed in some booths behind me. “Take this paper and go to that window there. They’ll take your information and get her registered.”

“Finally! Thank God!”

Going through the registration process took forever. The people behind the glass would walk past the open window just so they could take a look at me, then walk away giggling. It was embarrassing because I had to use my legal name and give them my drivers’ license and all that crap.

It was finally over and I asked the registration clerk if I could see Betty. She said, “Sir, just wait in the lobby and someone will call you.”

I walked as easy as I could, but my heels clicked loudly on the hard hospital floor until I reached the carpeted floor of the lobby. Everyone stared at me. At least it seemed that way. I wanted to just jump up and run back home, but I couldn’t leave Betty alone. For her, I could bring myself to endure a little humiliation.

After what seemed forever, a nurse opened the door that led back to the emergency room. She called out, “Mr. McCloskey?”

Thankfully it wasn’t many, but everyone in the lobby stared at me as I stood when my name was called. As I approached the doorway, the nurse just smiled and said, “This way, sir.”

I wanted to say something about being called ‘sir’, but I decided it just wasn’t worth the effort.

She led me through a large room where the space was partitioned using curtains. She pulled the curtain back a little and said, “She’s in here, sir…ma’am.”

I stepped into the curtained off room and let out a gasp. There was poor Betty, her skin still a grayish color. There was a large bandage on her head and she was wearing the standard hospital gown. There were wires coming off of her in various places and oxygen hoses in her nose.

I pulled a chair up close to her bed and took her hand. I whispered, “Oh, Betty! Why didn’t you stay in the shelter! Why?” I closed my eyes and started to cry.

Breathy and cracked, I heard Betty’s voice as she said, “Don’t cry dear.”

I looked up and saw Betty staring at me with half closed eyes. She tried to smile. She squeezed my hand. She said, “You look different.”

Thank God she could talk! Maybe she was going to be okay after all. I touched her cheek and she said, “I’m sorry, Hon. I lost the money you gave me.”

I shook my head and said, “Don’t apologize…it’s not your fault. Just rest. The doctors here will take care of you.” I hope.

Betty’s eyes brightened as she said, “I was going to buy a new hat. The other one was so old… I wasn’t going to be gone long.” She paused a moment.

“Just try to rest,” I said.

“I was going to go buy a new hat. But two girls…teenagers…from the shelter followed me. I guess they saw the money you gave me. They hit me on the head with something and I fell. I guess they took your money.”

I gripped her hand tighter as I said, “Don’t worry about the money. Did you tell the police about the two girls?”

“The who? What police?” She suddenly shuddered and grimaced with pain. She would have been unconscious when the police brought her here.

When she opened her eyes again, they were once again bright. She smiled slightly at me and softly said, “Thank you for the gift.”

I smiled back and said, “You’re very welcome. But don’t worry about the money. I’ll replace what those slime balls took.”

She tried to laugh, but it came out a cough instead. She said, “I’m not talking about the money. I’m not even talking about breakfast.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked, confused.

“You gave me a much more precious gift. You gave me a selfless act of kindness. For that I am truly grateful. You didn’t have to stop this morning. No one else did. Thank you for keeping me company.”

Tears tracking black streaks down my face I said, “You are so welcome, Betty. It was my pleasure.”

Betty smiled and while I held her hand watched her face, her body went suddenly limp and the light drained out of her eyes forever.

I jumped up and amid all the alarms on the equipment that she was attached to, I shouted, “Betty! Oh my God, Betty! Help! Somebody please help!”

A couple of nurses and a doctor burst through the curtains and up to Betty as I stood there crying. The doctor made a quick check and shook his head at one of the nurses. The nurse looked at me and quietly said, “I’m sorry. She’s gone.”

“No!” I shouted. “She can’t! She just can’t!” I cried. The two nurses tried to lead me away. I stood there a moment, looking at all that remained of an elderly woman known only as Betty.

The nurse gently nudged my elbow and said, “Ma’am, please. There’s nothing more you can do here. Let me take you over to this other room where you can have some privacy.”

I sat in the little room and cried my eyes out. I really don’t know why. Until a mere few hours ago she was just another nameless feature on the landscape of the city. And now I felt an unimaginable loss.

They brought some papers for me to sign and the hospital chaplain paid a visit and then they sent me home.

*          *          *

I sat on my bed, in my nightgown, studying the pistol in my hand. I had sat on the edge of my bed, crying until I just couldn’t physically cry any more. I blamed myself for giving her money. She might have stayed in the shelter if didn’t have any money. I blamed myself for even getting involved in the life of a complete stranger.

I don’t know how much the hospital bill was going to be, but it was bound to delay my surgery by another six months to a year. All my muscles tensed as I was filled with a sudden anger at being forced to be male even just one second longer than necessary.

My life was a big enough mess as it was, and now I’d messed up someone else’s. Here it was Christmas Eve and I sat alone in my apartment, holding a gun. No family gathered around to sing carols. No anticipation of opening presents. Just a hollowness in my gut and a feeling of utter contemptible worthlessness.

I suddenly put the gun in my mouth and closed my eyes. I found that I could still force out a few more tears. I sat there for what seemed an eternity, the barrel of the gun in my mouth, the taste of gun oil on my tongue. I felt my finger tighten on the trigger.

I jerked the gun from my mouth and tossed it on the floor. I flung myself on to my bed and my body was wracked with hug sobs. One person dying tonight was too many. I cried and cried until I fell asleep.

*          *          *

When I awoke, I felt stiff as if I’d over-slept in one position for hours. I lifted my head up to look at the clock. It was only eight in the morning. Christmas morning.

Several strands of hair fell across my face, blocking the view of my clock. I didn’t take my wig off last night before going to sleep again. I pulled on the strands of hair. Ow! My hair must have gotten caught in the wig somehow. I sat upright and felt a completely strange shift of weight across my chest.

What the hell?

I stood up and peeked down my nightgown. Oh my God! There were breasts in there. Attached to me. Then I noticed my hands. They seemed smaller, with long, slender fingers. This just wasn’t possible. I pulled the nightgown over my head and ran to the bathroom.

I gaped into the mirror and couldn’t believe what I saw. Staring back at me was me, but not me. There was a woman with dark brown, shoulder length hair in the mirror. The basic facial features were still me, but feminine. I didn’t look like a fashion model, just me, as a woman. I looked further down and examined the breasts that now extended from my chest. They were about average size and nicely shaped and firm. I touched one, and the nipple responded immediately. I slid my hand and eyes down further and I found…a…I couldn’t believe it. I had a vagina! My God! I’m a woman. An actual woman!

Then I started to notice other things. Not on me, but around the room. The décor was slightly different. There were more cosmetics on the bathroom counter. In my bedroom, there were plants and flowers. My Spartan bedspread now sported a floral pattern. My closet didn’t contain one item of male clothing.

This was totally nuts, I thought. Still naked, I stepped out into my living room. There were plants and knick-knacks here and there. A definite woman’s touch was apparent. On the coffee table was a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. There was a note attached.

I pulled the envelope from the flowers and slowly opened it. The card inside said simply, “Thanks for caring. Betty”

What the hell…I must still be a sleep or gone nuts.

I walked back into my bedroom and there on the floor lay the CZ 75. Noticing that it seemed heavier, I picked it up and absent mindedly rubbed the lipstick smudge from the slide. I pulled the slide all the way back and ejected the round. I popped the magazine out to ensure it was empty, popped it back in and released the slide. I returned the pistol to my dresser drawer.

I jumped when the phone suddenly rang. I let it ring a few times as I wasn’t sure what to do. I snatched the receiver, and then slowly brought it up to my face.

“Hello?” I was shocked to hear my voice. It was my voice, but feminine. Not falsetto or just soft. Feminine.

“Merry Christmas!” said the voice on the other end. “This is Nathan. How are you? I hope I didn’t wake you?”

“Oh, hi Nathan! No, no. You didn’t wake me. I was already up. I’m doing great, thanks. Merry Christmas to you too.”

“Sounds like you’re doing great! Hey, I just wanted to verify that you wanted me over for that turkey dinner about three o’clock, right?”

I…I didn’t know what to say. I paused a moment, then said, “Ah, sure. That’d be great!”

“Okay, Babe! I should go visit my parents this morning, so I’ll be seeing you this after noon! Oh, hey. Mom would love to have us over for dinner sometime.”

“Just tell me what day!” I said.

“Will do! Take care and Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas to you too. Bye-bye.” I felt numb as I hung up the phone. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

But I wasn’t going to argue with it.

*          *          *


The End


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